taz_39: (footprint)

On Monday Jameson and I began the drive to Chicago. We had already driven two hours the night before, so expected only a few more hours of driving. But partway through the drive we saw something ominous in the distance: a small dark cloud hovering on the horizon.

At first, we speculated that it was from a factory or someone's private burn pile. But the closer we got, the darker the smoke looked, and it soon became apparent that something was wrong. Jameson pointed out that he hadn't seen any cars traveling in the opposite direction for some time.

We rounded a corner and came upon a horrible scene. Something was burning on the highway median. Thick black smoke and fireballs curled into the sky. All we could do was sit and wait as emergency vehicles arrived.

Eventually it became clear that the fire was not going out any time soon. We were redirected back the way we came, where we found an alternative route. As we turned around I snapped a picture, hoping to see what had happened, but all I saw was a damaged truck and an indistinguishable black mass of metal.

It turns out that there had been a three-trailer accident. One of the trailers was a tanker, and it had burst into flame. The driver was killed. Not knowing this yet, we spent the rest of our drive quietly worrying for those involved, and selfishly grateful that we ourselves were OK.

We arrived in Chicago without incident, and enjoyed a nice evening with Jameson's parents.

The next day we got up a little early for a nice breakfast at Little Goat. We were lucky...owner Stephanie Izard was there to taste-test some proposed specials. Very cool to see the boss herself doing some hands-on sampling and giving instruction to her crew! This time I decided to try the "bullseye" french toast: home-baked chive brioche with soft-friend egg hidden in the middle, topped with crispy chicken, strawberry slices, and bbq maple syrup. As always, Little Goat hits the spot!

After breakfast it was time to hit the grocery. Mrs. Boyce needed lots of ingredients for Thanksgiving! She'd also preordered a turkey from Local Foods, a grocery specializing in local sustainable farming and foods. I saw lots of things in there that I'd like to eat! Back at the condo we relaxed, watched some Cubs recaps that Jameson had missed (we don't have tv on the train), and enjoyed an awesome curry lentil soup made by Mrs. Boyce. After dinner I was able to premiere a project that Landon (Blue Unit drummer) and I had been working on: social media sites for the Ringling bands! We now have a page on facebook and a twitter account. These are just to share the awesomeness that is the Ringling circus band...and yes, let's be honest, to remind people that there IS a Ringling circus band! Live music + circus = magic :)
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taz_39: (footprint)

Our last two days in Chitown went quickly. On Monday after our workout we went to Glenn's Diner. This place is known for its seafood, and also for having a seasonal selection of cereal, of all things! Pretty neat place. Mrs. Boyce and I both got this amazing seafood salad, full of lobster and smoked trout and shrimp. I couldn't even finish mine and had to ask the boys to help polish it off!

From there we went to the Lincoln Park Zoo. It's a small one but very good! They have several big cats, primates, reptiles, farm animals, and more. Plus the weather was fantastic, sunny but with a chill in the air, fall is definitely here!

Jameson and I feeding some cows :)

That evening after a wonderful dinner made by Mrs. Boyce, Mr. Boyce invited me along to his choir rehearsal! He sings with the Apollo Chorus of Chicago, an amazing group that's been performing since 1872!! They were rehearsing for a concert and also a wedding, at a local community arts building. I picked out a seat in the back and settled in to listen. To my surprise, the first song they rehearsed was Eric Whitacre's "Alleluia"! This piece is very familiar to me, I played it in college wind ensemble with my graduating class, but that arrangement is known as "October". But it's the same piece, and a very nostalgic and wonderful memory for me. I was very happy to hear it again.

The rehearsal went for about three hours with some breaks in-between. I got to hear a reduced section of the chorus (including Mr. Boyce) rehearsing for the wedding...I took footage of this but as the wedding was that week, decided against posting it. They sounded great :) I love sitting in on rehearsals and seeing the process of refining music. It's a lot of work for everyone involved, but the results are absolutely worth it!

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taz_39: (footprint)

As mentioned last week, this week is a rare mid-season break for the Red Unit. On Sunday after the last shows, everyone scattered to the winds. Some went home to be with family (and for some of our performers, that means flights home to Mongolia or Russia!) while others took vacations and excursions. I hope everyone has fun and comes back safely!

Jameson and I decided to go to Chicago for the week, to stay with his parents. We drove partway on Sunday, and the rest of the way on Monday. Partway through the drive I got notice that USPS had tried to deliver my trombone to Jameson's parent's condo, and had failed. Oh wait...you're probably wondering, "What trombone?"

Well, about a week ago a member of the trombone forum asked if I'd be interested in a trombone that he was selling. This wasn't just any trombone. It's a Williams model 6.

I won't bore you with too much history, but here's the basics. Earl Williams was an instrument maker who opened shop around 1930. He teamed up with Spike Wallace, who at the time was the principal trombonist of the LA Philharmonic. They made horns together up until around 1940, at which point they parted ways. Earl continued to make his own horns until World War II began and he was contracted to a factory for war production. After the war, Earl was able to buy large quantities of brass from the US government. He opened up shop in LA and continued making horns by hand. His work was in high demand from the famous trombonists of that era. In 1958 he moved his shop to Burbank, and there continued to make trombones until his death in 1971.

Even though Earl had others working in his shop with him, all of his horns were still made by hand, so there are a limited number of them out there. In addition, these horns are extremely high quality and produce a unique sound that can't be found in any other brand of trombone. For these reasons, Williams trombones are still in high demand. The model 6 is one of the most popular models, and it's the same size as the horns I currently play in the show. This one was in excellent condition, came in the original case, and had only two previous owners. I decided that an opportunity like this wouldn't present itself again. Knowing that we were about to have a week off, I had the trombone sent to Chicago, where Jameson's parents graciously agreed to receive it.

After a frustrating several hours trying to get USPS to deliver the horn, we realized that it wasn't going to happen, so Jameson's dad offered to go pick it up (thank you!!!). So it was waiting for me when we arrived!

I don't want to bombard you with photos, so if you'd like to see more pics here they are. The trombone came with other items from 1960s tromboning, including several mutes, a trombone stand, and a vintage water spray bottle. Cool!! I cleaned it up and played it just a little...the slide is fantastic and it sounds fantastic, I can't wait to play it in an arena and really take it for a spin!

But for now, it's vacation! The next morning all four of us got up and went to the gym on the condo's bottom floor. After a great workout we were very hungry, so we got cleaned up and took the red line to Crosby's Kitchen. Jameson's mom had seen it on a PBS show, and the food looked great. And it was! One of the appetizers we'd seen on the show was lobster deviled eggs. And BOY were they just as delicious as they looked! If you come here, get these. SO good.

For my meal I got a rotisserie chicken sandwich that was top notch. I didn't take a picture because I was eating :P At one point I noticed that Jameson & family were getting excited about someone sitting nearby. I discreetly asked what was up. Turns out Jason Hammel was sitting directly behind Jameson's dad!

He seemed to be there with some family, so we didn't bother him. Pretty cool though! The Cubs did have a game that night, so perhaps he was having a nice meal before heading over to Wrigley Field.

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We had Monday off thankfully.
Jameson's parents took us to a place called Eataly. It's like an entirely Italian grocery, featuring handmade breads, pastas and desserts, imported candies and sauces, and deli sections selling rare cheeses and cured meats. It was pretty amazing!

On the second level was a restaurant section. We enjoyed a delicious Italian lunch. I had the squid ink pasta with mussels and it was fantastic.

After that we ran a few errands, then took the dogs to a nearby dog park. Mo had to go in the small dog section (he gets defensive with big dogs) and Addison in the main park was distracted by his whining and barking. Still, she seemed to enjoy herself :)

The next day we had two shows. Jameson's parents took us to Little Goat, one of our favorite Chicago restaurants, for brunch. I decided to be adventurous and try the This Little Piggy Went to China: a cheddar sesame biscuit with Szechuan sausage, two eggs, gooseberries, and a zesty chili sauce. It was delicious and the sauce made my tongue tingle!

The shows went well, although attendance was lighter.

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Our three days of chill started off with a delicious brunch at Eleven City Diner :)

I decided to try the lox with the latke this time, and Jameson got their signature french toast topped with strawberries, bananas, and toasted coconut. Mmmmmm.

Then we hit Menard's for the groceries we'd need for the work week. Back at the apartment, we relaxed and watched TV. Sometimes it's the little things...enjoying a larger living space, a real TV, a real shower, a real bed.

For dinner we found Southcoast Sushi only a few blocks away. We've been here before and it's absolutely delicious. The lighting was too dim for a food photoshoot so believe me when I say everything looked great :) One of the specials of the day was an uni shooter: sea urchin with sake, quail egg, roe, ponzu sauce, and chives. It was very similar to an oyster shooter, and very good. Cheers!

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My days off were spent mostly preparing for the end of the year.
You might be surprised at how much you have to get ready for a long break from the road. I guess it's pretty similar to preparing for a month-long vacation.

I pruned my houseplants, and carefully considered whether I'd need someone to "babysit" them for the month of December. I wrote a few letters and emails in preparation for setting up a Primary Care Physician (on the road you visit so many different doctors that getting a referral can be a real chore unless you get a PCP). I got groceries and cooked for the week, being careful not to buy too much since for the next two weeks I'll be staying in Jameson's parent's place in Chicago. I began packing for that stay too, cramming a week's worth of clothing and supplies into my little suitcase. I took a general inventory of the stuff in my room and made little piles: things to send home ahead of me, things to take to a thrift store, things to relocate in the room.

In between the "chores" I just watched the internet, relaxed, went for walks, etc. Last week Rebecca (wardrobe) put turkeys on all of our doors. I colored mine and listed a few things that I'm thankful for. When all of the turkeys are done (HAW!) I'll post a picture :)

While some of us had a full two days off, others had to work. Train crew is also prepping for the end of the year, taking inventory of room items and passing out a basic Welcome/Guidelines sheet for the new folks coming in. The clowns had PR work, and also visited a local children's hospital. And floor and animal crews had elephant rehearsals, to help incorporate the new elephants into the show.

On Wednesday we only had one show and no rehearsal, so Brett (my boss) arranged for Bill (trumpet) and I to visit the Schilke factory only a few miles from the train! We were greeted by two smiling ladies at the front counter, and ushered into a room containing several Schilke trumpets and trombones, which we were invited to play with. Like kids in a candy store.

There were only three trombones on display, but that's not surprising since Schilke is much more well known for their trumpets. Anyway, I enjoyed trying them all out! I was happy to see that one of the large bore trombones had a Hagmann valve. The small bore tenor sounded very nice, especially with the 47B mouthpiece. Brett and Bill seemed to enjoy their trumpets as well :)

After much fiddling around Kevin, a fairly new Schilke employee, came in to take us on a factory tour! Along the way he described much of what we were seeing and the process of making Schilke trumpets and trombones. Though I've spent a lot of time in instrument repair shops, I have never been to a musical instrument factory before. It was pretty awesome.

We were shown some of the work benches and tables where craftsmen hand-make, polish, and refine brass parts and instruments. Most parts were organized neatly along one wall, file cabinet style. In one room we got to see the engraving machine, a really cool piece of modern technology. It looks a lot like a sideways 3D printer. Here is one of the bells used to test the engraver. Employees cover it in dye so that they can clearly see the etching each time.

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After Sunday's last show we drove the four hours to Chicago, parked at the airport, and hopped the train to Jameson's parent's condo. It never fails, I always feel like a princess when we walk in the door and are greeted by this view. Girlfriend priveleges indeed.

The next morning...well, I warned you there'd be food pictures. Brace yourself.

Breakfast was Chicago Waffles (formerly Waffle Cafe). Jameson knew right away that they were under new ownership after looking at the menu, but I had no clue. Anyway, we both decided on the waffle flight to get a sample of the new mini waffles! The flavors were chocolate with strawberries, Liege, banana Nutella, and...red velvet? Strawberry? I couldn't tell.

As you can see it's still a fantastic place to eat!

We played Ingress on the streets of Chicago for a while after that. Jameson leveled up! Congratulations!!
When our phones died we returned to the condo for some recharging and relaxation. Then, you know, dinner time. At Giordano's. I don't think I have to tell you that this tasted awesome.

Back at the condo we relaxed and watched Chopped. Because, you know, food :)

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Monday was probably one of the strangest "train run" days ever.
We couldn't move until Monday night, so the water was hooked up all day. What a treat!

The vestibule doors were down too, indicating that it was OK to get on and off the train.
I walked around a bit before it got too hot, taking blurry pictures of flowers.

Then it got hot and I started sneezing. I went back inside to eat and lie down. This is how I usually get sick...it starts with allergies and turns into a head cold or sinus infection. At least it usually happens during a break so I'm not sharing the germs at work :D So Monday was basically a day of nothing. No moving, no doing. I rested and ate and watched tv.

The train began moving Monday night and into Tuesday. When I checked Google Maps around noon I saw that we were just then leaving Alliance, TX, meaning we were about three hours behind. That's pretty good. As soon as we leave TX the internet will become much less reliable, so I enjoyed it while it lasted. Checking facebook, I saw that some of our crew were having an interesting experience while traveling overland. Looks like their trucker not only tried to make a turn under a bridge, he also locked his keys in the cab. Ouch.

(photo courtesy Melissa)

It's great that no one was hurt and 3 of 4 people can smile about it..haha.
I didn't do much on Tuesday either. Cooked and cleaned, and enjoyed the internet while it lasted.
Kept in touch with Jameson, who was running errands and playing Ingress in Chicago.
I watched some movies, including a documentary called Last Train Home about the annual migration of China's laborers to their homes in the countryside. It's the largest human migration in the world and it looks like a terrible experience. Remind me to never go to China during the holidays!

We passed through Oklahoma City at night. We'll be back for you OK City!!

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taz_39: (woody2)

We got to see some snow on Monday!

(photo courtesy Ryan)

When it gets this cold, it's hard for train crew to keep the water pipes from freezing.
One solution is to fill the water tanks--normally only filled on runs--and keep the hydrant water constantly running through the pipes.
Although this isn't ideal as it can be somewhat wasteful, it's better than having 200-some-odd people without water.

Tuesday's show was...weird. It was one of those Murphy's Law days...a whole lot of close calls. Maybe everybody was in 'rest' mode! Ashley, our Preshow Host, tripped head over heels on a prop on her way off the floor (sorry Ashley, I know you hate me for sharing that :P). She's bruised but ok! Then our 'plant' drummer didn't show for the Band Gag, so Alex pulled an actual audience member down! That was handled well, but after that one of the clown cars came to a dead stop in the middle of Opening, almost causing a train wreck as the two stiltwalkers behind him nearly crashed into the back end. Then one of our high wire guys stepped on his jump rope and nearly lost his footing. Yeek! Tuesday shows, throwing everybody off!!

Small disclaimer, it's pretty rare for those kinds of things to happen. All of our performers are highly skilled professionals. It just so happened that multiple people were subject to Murphy's Law that day :P

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taz_39: (woody2)

I decided to return to the train on Monday, and use Tuesday to sort of repack.
Jameson is graciously letting me stay at the condo for the first week of shows.
I'm super grateful because we've got some early splits on the weekdays. The commute may not be any shorter, but at least there'll be a real bed, shower, and fridge waiting for me at the end of the day. Thank you Jameson!

So on Monday I took the metro to Union Station. Jameson came with me to make sure I didn't get lost or stuck in any turnstiles (you wouldn't BELIEVE how often I get stuck in turnstiles.) At the station we saw lots of decorations left over from the recent Ringling PR event.

I got back to the train and cleaned up my room, then took the bike to get a few groceries.
I <3 my bike. It gets easier to ride every time I take it out.

Opening day went well. We've got some big enthusiastic crowds here in Chicago. The Friday morning show was especially nice, because one of the school groups was so enthusiastic they danced all the way through the second half! It was super cute :)
During the split, guess what I got to do!!!

I got to see the Chicago Symphony under Tilson Thomas playing Mahler's 9th Symphony!!

Brett and I booked it over to the concert hall between shows. Our morning show ended at 12:50, and theirs started at 1:30. We made it with only minutes to spare!
I love classical music, especially anything featuring the low brass ;)
I'd been looking forward to this concert for several weeks.
It was my first time hearing a world-class symphony live!
And it was definitely worth it. They were PRISTINE. Mahler's 9th ends quietly, unlike most of his other large works. It takes a lot of control, a lot of subtlety, to play such exposed and delicate music.
The CSO pulled it off flawlessly.

There were loud brassy parts as well (it's Mahler after all) and we were sitting directly across from the trombones, so we got to enjoy the power and energy full blast. It was just as interesting to watch as it was to listen. You could see the concentration, the control, and everyone breathing together to make the piece flow seamlessly between instruments. Wicked awesome. When the concert was over, I was wishing for more!!
Here's a link to a review of Thursday's premiere.

We stopped at a nearby pizza place for late lunch/early dinner, then got back to the arena in time for our 400th performance of Built to Amaze. Wow...where did the time go!!!
It feels like we were just in Brooklyn doing our 200th...

Audiences over the weekend were awesome. The arena was packed pretty much every show, and Sunday night's show was a sell out. It's a great feeling when your show can fill a 20,000 seat arena :)

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taz_39: (woody2)

Our venue in Toledo, OH was cancelled this week,
so most of us here on the Red Unit got to enjoy an entire week off!!!

I chose to stay in Chicago, because Jameson's parents have a condo downtown,
and Chicago is a pretty rockin' place. Jameson introduced me to his mom, who is awesome.
She came to our last show on Monday and loved it. Then she took us to the condo.
I was stunned...both by the view, and by her fantastic homemade chicken enchiladas!

Over the course of several days, she took us to some AMAZING restaurants!
The Little Goat, where I got to experience Fat Elvis Waffles
(waffles with bacon maple syrup, peanut butter butter, and sliced bananas).

The Scout, where we shared a 12" grilled cheese sandwich!
(other peoples' photos HERE)

Eleven City Diner, where Jameson got his favorite Bloody Mary.

Burger Point, where you can get 6 or 10oz of grass-fed chemical-free beef with a slew of fantastic toppings. They also have chicken, turkey, and veggie burgers. (photo of some burgers HERE)

Last but not least, Waffles, where we enjoyed a seriously fantastic breakfast on Jameson's birthday!
Jameson's mom got chocolate waffles with ice cream, and he and I got a Flight of Waffles!

There were four mini-waffles in the Flight:
Red Velvet w/cream cheese whip, strawberries and walnuts,
Green Tea w/lemon whip, ginger & pistachio,
Mexican Chocolate w/orange whip, candied orange and spicy cocoa,
and Leige, a more dense waffle with pearl sugar, white cream and blackberries.

Anyone who knows me knows that I try to eat healthy most of the time. I just want to say, even if you're a health nut, if you're ever in Chicago, don't pass these places by! All the food was fresh and made with REAL ingredients. Every menu had healthier options such as salads, gluten-free, vegan, etc. So no matter what foods you're into, there's something delicious for you here!

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We started off our second week in Rosemont with two glorious days off.
We would've had these same days off on a train run, but although runs are relaxing, you can't really DO anything on a moving train other than entertain yourself in your room. That's why these two days off are a special treat...we can explore or rest or whatever, and stay stationary :)

The weather was OK so I rode my bike to a shopping plaza containing a Savers, Big Lots, and a Jewel-Osco. In other words, I went thrifting :D Had some surprising good luck at the Savers, finding three like-new sweaters (nice ones, not hoodies!). I skipped Big Lots because I was feeling a bit under the weather, got groceries, and rode home. There are some beautiful suburbs around us. I really enjoyed riding through the falling leaves while admiring peoples' fall decorations <3

Sure enough, I came down with a cold that night.
Spent Tuesday mostly indoors, relaxing and watching movies.
On Wednesday we had a split, starting with a morning educational show. The weather was rainy and windy, and it was a smaller crowd than we'd usually have, but it happens sometimes. During the split I practiced my 'big' trombone and just kinda hung around, reading, relaxing, talking to people. The night show went smoothly as well. Some of the Feld family were in the audience; I hope they were happy with what they saw!

On both Thursday and Friday we only had night shows. I spent those days doing chores, and also took my bike for a spin through the suburbs again. It was very cold, so I didn't stay out long. Also my poor fish finally kicked the bucket on Friday, so I spent a good deal of time sanitizing his aquarium equipment and giving him a funeral (in a dumpster...because our donnikers are not 'real' toilets.) This fish survived traveling to various climates and altitudes on a moving train for almost two years.
Great job little buddy! Your presence will be missed.

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I posted a little early last week, so there's a bit more to add to our Cleveland visit!
The Monday hangover show was G's last show. We are sad to see her go, but she's pursuing other career options so it's a good move and I'm sure everything will work out for her :)
During preshow, someone in the band got a text simply stating that "Brett will be featured in G's last kissing booth". We all went running out to the floor, just in time to catch the magic.

Nice :D

Several Gold Unit performers happened to be passing through our area on the way to Erie, PA. They stayed to watch our show, and afterward we went to the Winking Lizard for a quick drink before load out. It was great to see Gabe and Jeremy, musicians from the Gold Unit!

The train run on Tuesday was pretty typical.
The weather was very nice so I spent some time on the vestibule enjoying the sights and smells of fall.

We'll have some interesting time zone changes, going from Eastern Time to Central, then the time change will happen so we'll gain another hour, but when we come back east we'll lose it again. Wowzers.

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First, the train run!
It was nice to see the train moving again after so much time bouncing around in Texas!
The first morning I woke up and after eating breakfast, went next door to do some more cleaning in Jason's room.

Boys are GROSS. Just sayin'.

I did the best I could. Then Eric (head porter) came by to clean for REAL. He had a complete arsenal of supplies and went to work scraping goo off the walls and dust from the dark corners. It took him probably about 4 hours. I kept him company a bit, and also went out onto the vestibule, watched a movie, and cooked lunch. At night I stayed on the vestibule to watch the sun set and say hello to people passing by.

On Wednesday I woke up pretty early and treated myself to pancakes and eggs from the pie car. Uncle John was cooking, so I got four monstrous pancakes and two perfect sunny-side-up eggs :) I made some coffee and ate on the vestibule, and tried to figure out where we were. Somewhere in Kansas, perhaps? Oh, my phone says it's Missouri.

The train is rocking from side to side a lot on this run. I had a theory that it's because we're traveling east/west, therefore when we turn north/south it won't rock as much. But some of the crew say it's because the tracks are crappy (you can bet they used a more colorful descriptive word lol).

(a few hours later)
We just left a water stop that took about 4-5 hours. During that time we weren't allowed off the train. I watched a movie, did some stretches, practiced, ate lunch, read, and took a little nap. By the time the train started moving again it was dinner time, so I ate that and went onto the vestibule to check out the sunset.

This part of Missouri is full of farmland and little towns centered around graneries, canneries, etc. It's good to be away from cities for a while. There's something here that I'm REALLY allergic to though! I was sneezing like crazy!
We're about 8 hours behind schedule. This isn't unusual, but I can tell we're trying to make up for lost time because we're FLYING.

Moline )


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March 2017



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